As the crisis over the Danish cartoons depicting the Islamic prophet Muhammad appears to be dying down, it is time to create a system to prevent such a costly crisis from erupting in the future.
We already have this system: it's called Western civilization.
As a result of the crisis, lives were lost, embassies were attacked in the Muslim world, the loyalty of Muslims living in Europe was put into question, and the image of Islam in the West as a violent religion was reinforced, thus increasing the possibility of the "clash of civilizations" desired by Islamic radicals such as Osama bin Laden.
Lives were lost because of the actions of Muslim fanatics. Embassies were attacked in the Muslim world by Muslim fanatics. The loyalty of Muslims living in Europe was put into question by the statements and actions of Muslims living in Europe. The image of Islam in the West as a violent religion was reinforced by followers of Islam committing acts of violence in the name of religion. But I'm nitpicking here.
Making a resolution of the conflict over the cartoons so difficult are the very different perspectives of much of the Muslim world and the West. Although it is certainly true that anti-Western states such as Syria and Iran sought to manipulate the crisis for their own political ends, one must acknowledge that a number of Muslims were genuinely insulted when they saw their prophet depicted as a terrorist.
While the Danish cartoonists may have sought to show, through their cartoons, that some Muslims were citing the Koran, and Muhammad, to justify suicide bombings, the cartoons had a very negative impact in the Muslim world where Muhammad is revered.
Okay, I acknowledge that a number of Muslims were genuinely insulted when they saw their prophet depicted as a terrorist. Deal with it, Muslims: everybody else does. And by the way, feel free to be insulted when you see terrorists depicted as your prophets.
Complicating the situation further was the reaction of many in the West to the violence perpetrated by the Muslims protesting the cartoons. The Muslims were accused of double standards, since anti-Semitic and anti-Christian cartoons are widespread in the Arab and Muslim worlds, and when complaints are made about them, the response is usually "we have a free press" — precisely the words used by the Danes to justify their cartoons.
I see. It's not the violence perpetrated by irrational fanatics that's the problem: it's the reaction of many in the West to this violence. Well, that's one way to go. And I've never heard a Muslim claim freedom of the press as justification for anti-Semitic or anti-Christian cartoons. Or laws. Or killings.
In order to rectify the situation, and to prevent a future crisis of this type from erupting, what is needed is a "code of conduct" for the newspapers and other media in both the Western and Muslim worlds. All governments must agree that the negative depiction of religion is "out of bounds," and penalties should be imposed on those who violate the code of conduct.
Please keep in mind that the writer of this op-ed is a political science professor. I'll type that again: Please keep in mind that the writer of this op-ed is a political science professor. If I had college-age kids I'd file for a restraining order to keep this guy from coming within 1000 feet of them. All governments must agree that the negative depiction of religion is out of bounds? There's really only one rational response to that statement:
Fuck you. Not on my watch, pal. See if these words ring any bells, Professor: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." I'll give you a hint: it's the First Amendment to the Constituion of the United States. Maybe something you should consider boning up on, seeing as you're a FREAKING POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR.
The problem, of course, is to determine the difference between legitimate criticism of someone who acts in the name of a religion, and the negative depiction of that religion.
Believe me, that's the least of your problems, but go ahead and tell us how you're gonna do this.
To solve that problem, I propose the creation of an International Religious Court, composed of Christian, Muslim and Jewish clergymen with one clergyman representing each of the three religions. Anyone feeling that his or her religion was insulted could appeal to the International Religious Court for a ruling on the matter, and the court would then determine whether a penalty should be invoked. It would be the responsibility of the government on whose territory the action took place to impose the penalty.
Of course! An international court! Because those work so well! Yutz.
And when did we outlaw all religions other than the big three? Is it okay to offend Hindus, or Buddhists, or Seventh Day Adventists, or Sikhs, or Zoroastrianists, or Pagans
, or Scientologists?
And anyone on the planet who feels that his or her religion was insulted can appeal to this court? This court with three members? Seriously? Those poor guys.
I realize that establishing the authority of the International Religious Court would not be easy. First of all, given the divisions between Sunni and Shia Islam, Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox Christianity, and Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist and Reform Judaism — to mention only the most important divisions of the three religions — finding a single individual to represent each of the three faiths will be a challenge.
Not to mention the divisions among Hindus, or Buddhists, or Seventh Day Adventists, or Sikhs, or Zoroastrianists, or Pagans
, or Scientologists.
Second, governments may be reluctant, on grounds of sovereignty, to impose penalties required by such an international court. Nonetheless, there is a precedent wherein a number of states have, in certain cases, voluntarily agreed to abide by the decisions of the International Court of Justice, which could be a model for the International Religious Court.
The fact that you view the International Court of Justice as a potential model for anything is sad.
Given the very severe costs of the Danish Cartoon Crisis, establishing both an international code of conduct to prevent negative media depictions of religion, and an International Religious Court to determine whether that code has been violated, are needed to defuse future crises such as the one over the Danish cartoons. I urge the international community to create the code of conduct and establish the International Religious Court as quickly as possible.I urge you to stop teaching political science and seek immediate help. At the very least, please try to remember that you're not the Osama bin Laden Professor of Dhimmitude at Caliphate University.